RIVERDALE, MD. - Twenty-four Wisconsin newspapers and printers have been slapped with fines from the state for falling a few points short of using 35 percent recycled fibers.
These levied fines - ranging from $38 to $13,670 - make Wisconsin the first state to enforce its recycled-content mandate on newsprint. So far, 12 states have such mandates while 13 more have voluntary agreements, according to surveys by State Recycling Laws Update, Riverdale, Md.
Although most state laws have so many exemptions for "availability" and "price" that the mandates have little teeth, 13 of the fined Wisconsin publishers discovered that their state's bite is as bad as its bark: All were denied exceptions.
Wisconsin is not the only state getting hard-nosed on paper recycling. In California, members of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento, are wringing their hands over how best to ensure timely submission of annual recycled newsprint use reports. Last year, 51 of the 195 companies required to submit the reports filed them at least 45 days late. The Board is considering assessing civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation, after providing notice to the delinquent company and conducting a formal public hearing.
With recycled content averaging 25 percent nationwide, publishers have been hard-pressed to meet California's stiff 40-percent-by-1998 recycling mandate, a goal which is also law in Arizona, Connecticut and Missouri.
However, California already has topped this goal for two consecutive years, as its newspaper industry used recycled content paper nearly 50 percent of the time - more than 800,000 tons of recycled newsprint in 1996.
Due to the flat newsprint market, many newsprint mills are finding it difficult to justify any new recycled newsprint capacity - a situation that some states are finding ways to accommodate. For example, rather than mete out fines, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina have amended their recycled content laws to either allot more time or allow newspaper credit for their own internal recycling programs.
Newspapers remain the single largest category of material collected in residential recycling programs: After recycling, Americans still trashed 4.38 million tons of old newsprint (ONP) in 1996. Despite the content mandates, the market for ONP decreased to $0 to $25 per ton in 1996 before increasing to $20 to $40 per ton last year.
For more information on recycling legislation, contact Raymond Communications Inc., 6429 Auburn Ave., Riverdale, Md. 20737-1614. (301) 345-4237. Fax: (301) 345-4768. Web: www. raymond.com/recycle